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My Thoughts on the iPhone as a Primary Point-and-Shoot Camera

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Recently I was on vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. While wandering up and down Ocean Boulevard I noticed something interesting- the vast majority of people were using their smartphone as their main camera, and the vast majority of those people were using the iPhone. Sure, there were some touristy looking people with very costly DSLRs hanging around their necks, but overall, I was standing in the midst of a paradigm shift.

I brought the family Sony Cybershot that I purchased a few years ago with us on the trip. Amazingly, it was never taken out of its bag. The other amazing thing, is the fact that the iPhone 4S’ camera sensor has a greater megapixel count at 8MP compared to the Cybershot’s 7.1MP. Granted, megapixels aren’t the only thing that leads to greater technical quality of a photo, but it doesn’t hurt.

Overall, despite the megapixel disparity, the Cybershot takes a better photo. But that doesn’t matter. The reason this is even a topic of discussion, is the fact that the camera on your phone, is more convenient than a standalone camera. Look no further than the iPhone’s cannibalization of iPods. The iPhone can do everything a standalone iPod can do, consolidated into one device that does more things than play music. In turn, iPod sales are shrinking. I think this is what is happening to cameras, both of the video and still variety. Modern phones are eating into camera market, as they are other markets.

So, are we sacrificing quality for the sake of convenience? A few years ago, I would argued that we were. A 2MP camera on the iPhone and iPhone 3G just wasn’t going to cut it, even for the most casual of users. These days, it is an entirely different matter. These new camera modules, as in the case of the iPhone 4S, can shoot 1080p HD video, and 8MP photos. Sure, the iPhones photo quality begins to break down in lower-light conditions, and there is no moving lens, but overall the device works great as a point-and-shoot replacement. Just take a look at some of the photos I took on the trip:

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Nothing particularly great, but they are memories of an excellent time.

I am not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is the majority of the public. The mass market merely wants something to quickly capture memories, and really not much more. Smartphone cameras do a great job of filling that roll. After all, we always have our phones near us, and as the trite saying goes: The best camera is the one you have with you. Today it is more relevant than ever, and we don’t even have to sacrifice that much quality for the convenience.

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  • Allison Williams

    That moving lens makes all the difference if you want to create an album of interesting variety.

    • Alex Jordan

      I totally agree, and that is what makes this a convenience and not really a pro tool. Granted, excellent photos can be taken with the iPhone, but as of right now, it certainly cannot replace a DSLR.

  • Deltec Enterprises

    If they would make a camera with optical zoom on the iPhone, it would be an awesome camera. Now, I agree it doesn’t take, and will never take near as good pictures as my Nikon D50, but it is convenient cause it’s not like I carry that camera everywhere with me, but I ALWAYS have my iPhone. 😉

  • Rodney

    The truth is, “the best camera is the camera you have with you.” I ALWAYS have my iPhone with me. Therefore I can always take a quick shot of anything important or whimsical. But I have to plan ahead and carry extra stuff if I want to bring my Sony camera. The iPhone 4s has pretty much replaced all my other cameras because it takes great photos and I don’t have to carry extra stuff.

  • jhrogersii

    Hey Alex. Nice pics. If you want to broaden your mobile photography experience, you should consider the olloclip that I just reviewed. It does a great job of enhancing certain shots, without getting in the way. It is very portable, and easy to get on and off quickly.

    I recently bought a Panasonic Lumix LX-50, and I absolutely love it. It isn’t nearly as bulky as a DSLR, but has a high quality Leica lens, and all of the modes and settings you expect on bigger camera. It’s those settings that help me get better shots. It’s the reason I ditched a perfectly good Sony WX-9 that took good pics, but no manual modes as all.

    For me, the main thing that the iPhone can’t replace is the customization you need to get better low light shots, especially without the flash. If Apple wants to make their Camera app dead simple, that’s fine. I just wish they would give devs access to settings like shutter speed, F Stop, and ISO. I would part with an optical zoom for casual use if I could manipulate these on my iPhone.

    I know that Symbian is a dead end OS, and can’t for the life of my understand why Nokia would choose it to roll out a revolutionary new mobile camera module, but I am intrigued by the possibilities of the 808 PureView phone. Nokia has found a creative solution to bring zoom capability to a good camera phone, without additional mechanical systems that can fail. If the PureView is a success when it comes to Nokia’s Windows Phones, it could change the way manufacturers and consumers think about cameras on smartphones.